Museums & Heritage

Rembrandt blockbuster draws 42,000 visitors to National Gallery of Canada

The response in Ottawa “shows people crave experiencing visual arts in person”, director Sasha Suda says

Rembrandt van Rijn's Judith at the Banquet of Holofernes (1634), was on loan from the Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid

After an extended delay due to the surging pandemic, the National Gallery of Canada’s blockbuster show Rembrandt in Amsterdam: Creativity and Competition proved to be a hit. More than 42,000 devotees of the Dutch Master visiting Ottawa during the nearly eight-week run (16 July-6 September), raising the museum's overall attendance to 75,000 this summer. “These are exceptional numbers in pandemic times,” says the museum’s CEO and director Sasha Suda, who was understandably elated at the response, adding that “it shows people crave experiencing visual arts in person.”

Around 10,000 visitors stopped by the National Gallery each week after its mid-July re-opening, eager to see the Rembrandt loans, which highlighted his evolution as an artist, along with works by other artist he associated with and even some rivals. And as part of its new inclusive mission centred on the Anishinaabemowin word Ankosé, meaning “everything is connected”, the National Gallery show also included contemporary pieces by Black and Indigenous artists from its collection alongside the Old Master paintings.

After just a week, available time slots for the ticketed show were being quickly snapped up, leading the museum to extend its hours during the last four days to meet the demand. The show now travels to the Stadel Museum in Frankfurt, Germany, where it will have a much longer run, from 6 October to 30 January 2022, but will not include the contemporary works from the Canadian version.